Alappuzha (Alleppey), India

From the mid-nineteenth century, Alleppey (“Alappuzha”) was the main port for the backwater region. Spices, coffee, tea, cashews and other produce were shipped out from the inland waterways to the sea via a grid of canals and railway lines. Tourist literature loves to dub the town “the Venice of the East”, but in truth the comparison does few favours to Venice. Apart from a handful of colonial-era warehouses and mansions, and a derelict pier jutting into the sea from a dirty, sun-blasted beach, few monuments survive, while the old canals enclose a ramshackle Keralan market of bazaars and noisy traffic.

The best travel tips for visiting Alleppey (Alappuzha)

That said, Alappuzha makes a congenial place to while away an evening en route to or from the backwaters of Kerala.

Streams of visitors do just that during the winter season, for the town has become Kerala’s pre-eminent rice boat cruising hub, with an estimated four hundred kettu vallam moored on the fringes of nearby Vembanad and Punnamada lakes.

To cash in on the seasonal influx, the local tourist offices lay on excursion boats for day-trips, while in mid-December the sands lining the west end of town host a popular beach festival, during which cultural events and a procession of fifty caparisoned elephants are staged with the dilapidated British-built pier as a backdrop.

Alappuzha’s really big day, however, is the second Saturday of August, in the middle of the monsoon, when it serves as the venue for one of Kerala’s major spectacles – the Nehru Trophy snake boat race.

RoughGuides tip: Planning a trip to India? Perhaps our local experts in India can help you!

Kerala backwaters houseboat, India © Shutterstock

Kerala backwaters houseboat, India © Shutterstock

Best things to do in Alleppey

From day cruises on the famous backwaters to relaxing on the beach here are the best things to do in Alappuzha.

#1 Take a day cruise around Alleppey

The obvious destination for a day-trip from Alappuzha is Vembanad Lake on the town’s north and eastern fringes: Punnamada Lake (also called Punnamada Kayal) is the local section of this vast waterway.

Reaching either from town is most straightforward by water. For short cruises, it’s possible to charter diesel-powered motorboats, but a better option would be to dispense with engines altogether and opt for a guided village tour in a hand-paddled canoe.

Aside from being more “green”, these allow you to penetrate narrow waterways beyond the range of the other tourist boats

#2 Slither into town for the Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race

On the second Satuarday in August, the most spectacular of the town’s boat races attracts huge crowds to Punnamda Lake near Alappuzha.

Following a grand procession, the magnificently decorated longboats – each carrying more than one hundred oarsmen rowing to the rhythmic vanchipattu (“song of the boatman”) – compete in knockout rounds.

Kerala drive a snake boat at the annual boat race event in Kerala, India © Shutterstock

Kerala drive a snake boat at the annual boat race event in Kerala, India © Shutterstock

#3 Ride an old rice barge through the backwaters

Whoever dreamed up the idea of showing tourists around the backwaters in old kettu vallam (rice barges), could never have imagined that, more than three decades on, nine hundred or more of them would be chugging around Kuttanad waterways.

These houseboats, made of dark, oiled jackwood with canopies of plaited palm thatch and coir, are big business, and almost every accommodation seems to have one. The flashiest are fitted with a/c rooms, Jacuzzis and widescreen plasma TVs on their teak sun decks and have bottles of imported wine in their fridges.

Cruises last a minimum of 22 hours, though don’t expect to spend all of that on the move: running times are carefully calculated to spare gas. From sunset onwards you’ll be moored at a riverbank.

#4 Relax on Alappuzha Beach

Relax on this lick of sandy shoreline while enjoying breathtaking views of the Arabian Sea. Take a leisurely stroll along the beach, witness the mesmerising sunset, and don't forget to try some delicious local snacks from the beachside stalls.

The beach also hosts various cultural events and festivals, adding to its vibrant ambiance.

Best areas to stay in Alleppey

As well as the houseboats, Alappuzha has a decent amount of value accomodation and homestays too. Here’s where to stay.

Even if you aren't planning on boarding a houseboat, Alleppey has some of Kerala's most charming and best-value accommodation, particularly when it comes to homestays and backpacker hostels. Homestays are also mushrooming along the coast north of Alleppey and around the remote backwaters.


To fully immerse yourself in the backwater experience, consider staying in one of the houseboats or resorts located in the backwater areas of Alappuzha.

Alappuzha Beach

Numerous hotels and resorts line the beachfront at Alappuzha Beach, offering a range of amenities and breathtaking views of the Arabian Sea.

Punnamada Lake

For a tranquil and picturesque setting, Punnamada Lake is an ideal option. You can choose from luxury resorts or homestays that offer stunning views of the lake. The latter are growing exponential along the coast north of Alleppey as well.

Browse the best hotels in Alleppey.

Best restaurants and bars

With a handful of good restaurants, Alleppey isn’t exactly a culinary superstar. That said, you can expect lots of great homecooking on the barges and at guesthouses. Here’s where to go.

Alleppey Beach Road is a bustling area near Alleppey Beach with numerous restaurants serving traditional Kerala cuisine and plenty of fresh seafood. Located in the city centre, Mullakkal Street is a treasure trove of local eateries and small cafes.

The shoreline is dotted with some great restaurants where the Indian food is as good as the views from your table.

Alleppey, Kerala, India © Christian Ouellet/Shutterstock

Alleppey, Kerala, India © Christian Ouellet/Shutterstock

How to get around

Tuk-tuks are a popular mode of transport in Alappuzha. They are convenient for short distances and offer a relatively affordable way to get around the city. Taxis are readily available in Alappuzha. Either hail on the street or book one through a taxi service.

The city has a well-connected network of local buses that operate within the city and to nearby towns. Alappuzha is famous for its backwaters, and exploring them by houseboat is a must-do here.

This is a relatively small city, and hiring a scooter is a popular way to get around. Ask at your hotel.

What is the best time to visit Alleppey?

The best time to visit Alleppey is during the winter months of October to February. This period offers the most pleasant weather with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 32°C (68°F to 90°F). The winter season in Alleppey is characterized by mild temperatures, low humidity, and gentle breezes, making it an ideal time to explore the backwaters and engage in outdoor activities.

Another popular time to visit Alappuzha is during the monsoon season, which typically occurs from June to September. The heavy rains during this period transform the backwaters into a picturesque landscape, and the lush greenery adds to the charm of the region. However, it's important to note that boat services and outdoor activities may be limited during the monsoon due to rough weather conditions.

Visiting in December? Make sure to read our article about visiting Kerala in December

It's worth considering that Alappuzha can be crowded with tourists during peak travel seasons. If you prefer a quieter experience with fewer crowds, you may consider visiting in the shoulder seasons of October-November or February-March. These months offer favorable weather conditions while avoiding the peak tourist rush.

Find out more about the best time to visit India.

Backwaters of Alleppey with churches & temples Alleppey in Kerala © Shutterstock

Backwaters of Alleppey with churches & temples Alleppey in Kerala © Shutterstock

How many days do you need in Alleppey?

Most visitors will spend at least one or two nights in Alleppey, though we recommend at least four days here. During a two-day visit, you can embark on a memorable houseboat cruise through the backwaters -- the reason most travellers come here -- and then leave again.

It's worth staying a little longer to climb to the top of Alleppey Lighthouse for panoramic views and spend a day at the beach, too. If you're in town for the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, book as far in advance as you can and spend several days here to take in the atmosphere as well.

How to get here

By bus

The KSRTC bus stand is at the northeast edge of town, 1min from the boat jetty.

By boat

The main boat jetty is on Vadai Canal, close to the KSRTC bus stand, from where the daily tourist ferries to and from Kollam run, as well as cheaper local (and less direct) ferries to and from Kottayam.

Regular services also connect Alappuzha with Champakulam, where you pick up less frequent boats to Neerettupuram and Kidangara, and back to Alappuzha. This round route ranks among Kuttanad’s classic trips.

By train

The station, on the main Thiruvananthapuram–Ernakulam line, lies 3km southwest across town, on the far side of Alappuzha’s main waterway, Commercial Canal.

As the backwaters prevent trains from continuing directly south beyond Alappuzha, only a few major daily services and a handful of passenger trains depart from here.

Find out the best ways to get to India.

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 18.06.2023

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍